After a stunning fourth quarter comeback by home team LA Clippers, the series returns to Oklahoma City Thunder’s Chesapeake Energy Arena all tied up at two games apiece for the pivotal Game 5 (Tuesday 9.30pm ET).
Both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Clippers barely squeaked past their quarterfinal opponents to avoid upsets and secure this highly anticipated matchup. As a result, nobody was sure if the hyped up series would meet expectations.
Game 1 saw the Clippers charge out to a 17-point lead after scoring 39 points in the first quarter and 30 in the second. LA outmanned, outplayed and outbodied the Thunder. They pushed OKC around all game and the lopsided score of 122-105 was a clear example of that. The Clippers were the better prepared and better equipped team and it showed on the court.
Chris Paul (pictured) of LAC led all scorers with 32 points and 10 assists and once again, Thunder forward and newly named MVP, Kevin Durant, came up small going 9-of-19 from the floor with three turnovers. Russell Westbrook led all OKC scorers with 29 points but the too struggled to keep control of the ball, totaling six of the team’s 18 turnovers.
In Game 2 however, a Thunder victory, Westbrook earned a triple double with a line of 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Durant also came up big with a game-high 32 points and he himself was only one assist away from a triple double. Meanwhile, no Clipper player scored more than 20 in the 11-point loss.
Game 3 was a shootout between two of the league’s best. It was finally the high scoring, closely contested affair that this matchup was built up to be and it didn’t disappoint. Durant led all scorers with 36 points while also totaling eight rebounds and six assists. LAC’s Blake Griffin also notched 30+ points as his line read 34 PTS/8 REB/ 4 AST.
The excitement created from that carried over into Game 4 as the Staples Center became the sight of one of the best comebacks of the 2014 postseason. Down 17 after the first quarter and 12 after three, LAC charged back to outscore the Thunder by 14 in the fourth. Paul led the team with 23 points and 10 assists and Durant once again led all scorers with a playoff high 40 points.
So what can be taken away from the first four games?
- Durant is boiling hot – After the first round brought detractors out in full force, Durant didn’t waste much time silencing the critics once and for all. He began the semifinal round with 25 points and has increased that number each game. Durant is averaging 33.3 points in the second round and 30.2 over the course of this year’s postseason. He is the Thunder’s top guy and he will get his. The problem for the Clippers though is that Durant is getting his and a whole lot of someone else’s. So far, the team has managed by keeping Durant’s teammates off of the board but if Westbrook can find a way to put up game two numbers again, it will be a long trip back to Los Angeles for the Clippers.
- The Clippers Just Won’t Quit – Westbrook had a triple double and Durant almost did in Game 2. It should have been a blowout and yet, the NBA’s number one offense only lost by 11. In the Game 3 loss, the Clippers were defeated by just six even though the Thunder scored 118 points. Ultimately what it comes down to is that this team just won’t quit. They have the talent and the tenacity, especially with Paul as captain. No deficit is too big as they showed in Game 4 and if the Thunder let another easy one slip away, they might find it tough to beat the Clippers for a spot in the Western Conference Finals.
- OKC’s X Factor is… Kevin Durant. When a guy is averaging over 33 points, it doesn’t matter who he is. You find a way to get him the ball and that’s exactly what the Thunder have been doing. Durant is their best chance to win not only game five but the entire series. He doesn’t get to have an off day.
- LAC’s X Factor is… The turnover margin. In four games, the Clippers have committed a total of just 30 turnovers which amounts to approximately 7.5 per game. It isn’t rocket science to know that is how you win a basketball game. In fact it is because of the Clippers’ great handling of the basketball that has helped them stay in games when Durant and Westbrook go off and even win games where Durant scores 40.
LA Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder Betting Picks
The Clippers led the NBA in scoring largely because of the trio of Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan known as “Lob City.” The Thunder ranked fourth in the league because of Durant and Westbrook. Point being, these are superstar teams with talent just oozing at all positions.
Either team has a chance to win the series especially after how the last two games have gone. This has been a competitive set and there is no reason to expect game five will be any different.
The Thunder have the advantage of being at home for the pivotal game and this could be the difference maker. The team lost just seven games at home this year, playoffs included.
For that reason, take the Thunder to get the win and take a 3-2 series lead. That doesn’t mean they will win the series though and no matter what, you can’t count out the Clippers. But for betting this game and even Game 6 after it, the home team is the best option.
- So take OKC -5.5pts at odds of -110 on the spread with BetOnline Sportsbook, who are first out of the traps with the Game 5 betting lines.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.